Employment Support Allowance (ESA) is a benefit for those whose ability to work is limited due to ill health or disability. At present, claimants of ESA have to provide evidence of their illness every six months. Recently however, work and pensions secretary Damian Green announced that ESA will continue automatically for those with lifelong and severe health conditions.
It is no secret that the benefits system often falls under intense criticism for failing the most seriously ill and disabled in society. In fact, it is hard to miss the horror stories which flood the media of inept disability benefit rejections.
Currently, the testing process involves pages of questions to complete and an intensive face–to-face assessment. Unfortunately for some claimants the pressure doesn’t end there. Often individuals have to appeal their unfair decision which can again be a lengthy process. Recent figures show that over 58% of ESA claimants won their appeal highlighting a definite problem with current testing. Many claimants call it a ‘waiting game’, the wait for dreaded letters, for yet another assessment. Working alongside such claimants and their families, we see how this process causes stress and anxiety on a daily basis.
Now the Minister responsible, Damian Green, has stated: “If someone has a disease which can only get worse, then it doesn’t make sense to ask them to turn up for repeated appointments. If their condition is not going to improve, it is not right to ask them to be tested time after time. So we will stop it.”
I am sure this change will be more than welcomed by the majority of people we support and their families.
Sian Jenkins, Information and Advice Officer